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The Lonely Londoners (Longman Caribbean Writers) Paperback – 29 May 1979

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Pearson; 1 edition (29 May 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0582642647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0582642645
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 1 x 18.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 153,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

This is Selvon's best work. It explores the lives of a group of West Indians mainly Trinidadians and Jamaicans who leave the Caribbean to live in London. They came looking for a better life and what they found was bitter coldness both from the unforgivable winters and the cold prejudice of the people they encounter.
They experience hunger and hopelessness, discrimination for jobs and on the job but they are able to survive.
It tells much about the spirit of the West Indian abroad.
I would recommend this book to anyone who both want to learn more about West Indian people and who enjoy a good laugh.
It is Selvon at his best.

About the Author

Samuel Selvon (the unusual Indian surname appears to be Tamil) was born on 20 May 1923, into a middle-class Presbyterian family in San Fernando, the southern city of Trinidad. His half-Scottish, half-Indian mother looked after the home, while his Madrasee father tended his dry-goods store in San Fernando. His mother, who spoke Hindi and English fluently, encouraged her children to be similarly bilingual, but Sam confesses that he eventually managed only a few swear words and common phrases. Young Sam attended two Canadian Mission primary schools. One in San Fernando, and the other nearby. He remembers fondly that at the latter, Grant C M School, he received warm encouragement in English Composition from a particular teacher. Sam moved on to Naparima College in San Fernando, another Canadian Mission institute, and during an undistinguished academic career, developed an abiding love for his two favourite subjects, English Language and English Literature. It was at Naparima College that he became a voracious reader.

In 1944, Selvon won a short story contest with a piece submitted to The Naval Bulletin, a publication of RNVR. He wrote both prose and poetry, often discarding what he wrote. One poem, however, was kept, and was later broadcast on the BBC radio programme 'Caribbean Voices' while Selvon was still in Trinidad. From RNVR, at the end of World War II, Selvon became a wireless operator with the Port of Spain Gazette, and shortly after, moved to the rival Trinidad Guardian. He spent three years with the newspaper, and left as sub-editor of special features.

Feeling that Trinidad was stifling his growing interest in creative writing, Selvon left for England in March, 1950, aboard the same ship as George Lamming, whom he had met before but did not know well. In London, Selvon, unable to secure a position in journalism, freelanced, publishing articles on various subjects. He later became a clerk in the Indian Government Civil Service Department in London. Needing a change, after twenty-eight years, Selvon left England in 1978 for Canada, where he resides. At present, he is writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary, teaching and working on a new novel, which seeks to explore the rich intricacies of the  Trinidadian psyche.                                                 


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73 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Stewart on 17 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
First published in 1956, Trinidadian born, Sam Selvon, began his London based fictions with a short novel called The Lonely Londoners. It's set during a time when many West Indians were emigrating from a life of sunshine to the British Isles, believing, like many emigrants, that the streets were paved with gold. Of course, this is London we're talking about; there's no gold.

The book, for the most part follows the fortunes of Moses Aloetta, a Trinidadian who has lived in London for years, as his life meets tangentially with others. His time is spent between his job, in which he is paid a meagre wage, and heading on down to Waterloo to meet the latest influx of West Indians.

There all manner of characters coming to London, and not only from the West Indies. Shiftless ladies' man Cap, for example, is Nigerian. But the majority are coming from Trinidad and Jamaica. Local prejudice tends to label all the black immigrants as being Jamaican, which rankles Moses. Other characters include Henry Oliver (nicknamed Sir Galahad), a young kid looking to start over in London; Tolroy, who on writing home to say he gets paid five pounds a week, wasn't intending the letter to be an invitation for his whole family to join him; Five Past Twelve, an ex-soldier always on the scrounge; Big City, who has always been captivated by urban living yet can't quite integrate; and Harris, a man who has found himself in London yet is still tied to the burgeoning black community.

The novel follows their fortunes as they come to Moses for help, as they crash in on each others' lives, and flirt with the white women who see them as a novelty; all the time wondering if they will ever return home. Through all this, though, there's a sense of unease.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By sojourner on 26 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
The reading experience of this tragi-comedy book the lonely Londoner would be laughing with tears in grief. Set in 1956 Post war Britain, the booming economy draw many people from its former colonies come to Britain with dreams, fantasy that 'the street paved with Gold.' While present, distinct from the past, we see policies aiming at reducing flows of migrants etc and getting into UK esp for work is extremely hard. As a Chinese in Britain nowadays, I would say still I feel myself really attached to the book. Certainly, I'm quite different from the people in this book, mainly for that I'm a student not go to UK for work. But many people I know from Chinese community in the UK including myself also experience the same problem of integration, racism , loneliness, homesickness etc. The feelings stay the same across the race, across the time. During my reading, at certain points I could feel that it is exactly depicting our Chinese group!For example, people who are trying hard to mix with English people, but sometimes it is too hard so we give up and only end up sticking closely with our own people; people who takes pride in making boy/girl friends with white person; people who acts more English even than the native English people would do,and the certain type of 'resetaurant' jobs typically for us as the heavy manual work for West Indies etc.

For , I think the reason that isolate Chinese migrants from other groups of people is that language barrier and too reserved personality. People there don't really have an adequate sense of happiness mainly due to the loneliness, which is the main theme in the book.

But a lot of Chinese migrants too have been trapped in this very embarrassing situation that is 'neither forward or backward' .
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Simon Savidge Reads on 8 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback
As `The Lonely Londoners' opens we meet Moses Aloetta who is on his way to meeting a group of people who have newly arrived in the city from the West Indies. Moses having lived in London for quite some time is an initially rather begrudging welcoming committee. This is the 1950s a period after the war when many people from many countries came to the UK to find their fortune. While a small amount of them did (and these were very few and far between) most people however ended up working for anything they could get and Moses in his heart of heart is homesick. He is there to meet Henry `Sir Galahad' Oliver and through these two characters and people they know we get snippets of peoples lives.

Selvon does something for me with this book which I both loved and found rather difficult all at once and I am not talking about the fact its written in a creolized voice, that actually helped the book come more alive for me. No, the difficult things is there is no exact narrative be it first person, second or third. It flits from scene to scene and person to person which whilst creating an incredible sense of London and its atmosphere at the time is actually rather confusing and disorientating. I couldn't get a grip on the characters emotionally even though characters such as the gutsy Tanty (who is one of the only women in the book and doesn't get mentioned much, the book to me really lost something on not having one main female voice or outlook) and Moses himself made the book really interesting in parts. I never became attached to any of them though and so, and this might make me sound callous, I ended up not caring. I also hated the misogynistic attitude of some of the characters like Cap, who seemed to somehow sleep with every woman be they black or white and treat them like garbage.
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